“Round Robinson”: 2015 Defensive Tackle Rankings (11-20)
They may be the kickers of the IDP world, but defensive tackles are people, too. Really, really large people at that. And for those of you who play in deep IDP or dynasty leagues, having a little depth to go with your girth is never a bad thing. So here we go with the second half of the defensive tackle rankings, chock full of fresh young talent and some veteran difference makers donning a new uniform in 2015:
11. Sharrif Floyd (MIN) – Ranking Floyd just one slot outside the top ten might be overestimating his true potential a smidge coming into 2015, but I’ll gladly take this roll of the dice. After all, Floyd is trending very nicely early in his career, doubling his tackle total from 2013 to 2014 and nearly doing the same with his sack numbers. Trying to replace the famed Williams wall was never going to be easy, but Floyd has shown he has the physical gifts to hold up. This ranking, however, has as much to do with my faith in Mike Zimmer as it does Floyd. Remember that in Geno Atkins’ third season, Zimmer was able to coax 12.5 sacks from his dominant D-tackle. A ceiling like that might be a pipe dream, but expect to see Floyd raise the roof again in year three for Minnesota.
12. Jurrell Casey (TEN) –Tough to call a season where a DT nabs 5.0 sacks, sets a career high in tackles and run stuffs, and finishes in the top ten at his position a disappointment, but you have to believe those who selected Casey with a premium pick last year did just that. The switch to a 3-4 really hampered his production for the Titans, and the hope is that a few new additions to the Tennessee defense will help alleviate some of Casey’s burden. Personally, I’m not buying it. We wonder all the time if the best player on a bad offense can still be a stat stuffer. Casey has the same task in front of him on the other side of the ball. Great talent, but have we already seen the best he has to offer?
13. Dontari Poe (KC) – If nothing else, you have to appreciate a man who’s a biscuit shy of 350 pounds playing nearly 2,000 snaps over the last two seasons. As true a three-down lineman as there is, Poe recorded a career high six sacks in 2014 and there’s no reason not to expect around the same production this year. Having Derrick Johnson and Mike DeVito back also brightens Poe’s outlook in the running game as opportunities for TFLs should increase. There’s nothing he can’t do, so he makes a for a solid, high ceiling option.
14. Haloti Ngata (DET) – Still feels strange to see Ngata will a Lions’ logo on his helmet instead of that familiar purple and black of Baltimore. Not only that, he has the daunting task of replacing the most disruptive D-tackle in the game. The comparisons to Suh are unavoidable, and although Ngata won’t be on equal footing with the new Dolphin, he’ll still be a valuable contributor in Detroit. He needs to stay on the field a little more consistently, but with a talent like Ezekial Ansah becoming the focal point for opposing O-lines, it’s not crazy to think Ngata could return to the five-sack level he managed earlier this decade.
15. Nick Fairley (STL) – While Suh got all the headlines when he left Detroit, another former first round pick also left the Motor City and joined what was already one of the NFL’s best defenses. Fairley has yet to reach the lofty expectations set forth for him out of Auburn, tallying just 98 tackles and 13.5 sacks in four seasons. He’ll once again be paired with an elite DT in Aaron Donald and I expect the change of scenery to be a career rejuvenator. There’s plenty of competition to push Fairley, but he came into camp looking lean and mean, and a refocused and dedicated Nick Fairley makes the Rams even scarier.
16. Clinton McDonald (TB) – Leaving the Super Bowl champion Seahawks last offseason didn’t seem to affect McDonald one bit. Compare his 2014 numbers with Tampa to his 2013 numbers with Seattle and you’ll notice quite a few similarities. Making it even more impressive is that McDonald was able to produce those duplicate stats playing two less games last year than he did with Seattle in ’13. The McBros in Tampa Bay have quietly become one of the best DT duos in the league, and the less heralded of the two will get you serviceable stats without any of the fanfare.
17. Danny Shelton (CLE) – I love Danny Shelton and what he brings to a Browns’ defense that has to contend with a division full of talented running games. He’s a plugger who’ll absorb double teams and control the middle of the line. Unfortunately, his skills don’t translate to big time fantasy numbers. As I discussed last month, Shelton isn’t the pass rusher his college numbers suggest he might be. Expecting even 4.0 sacks in his rookie year is asking a bit much in my opinion, but like another name further down the list, there’s value in those who specialize against the run, especially coming from a first-year DT who posted nearly 100 tackles in one season.
18. Kawann Short (CAR) – While few would argue that Short is not as dominant a force as his line compatriot Star Lotulelei, injuries and statistics suggest that it is the 2013 second-round pick who is best equipped to be on a fantasy roster. Short didn’t even crack the starting lineup until Week 8 last year, but still finished in the top 30 in fantasy at DT. This year, with a returning Star next to him, expect the arrow to continue to point up as the interior lineman begin to take the mantle as the dominant force across the Carolina front four.
19. Jeremiah Ratliff (CHI) – If Ratliff, coming off a 6.5 sack season in just 11 games, was 24 years of age instead of the 34 he’ll be by the time the season starts, he’d be a cinch for a top five ranking here. Many expected him to be nearing the end of a solid career, but Ratliff went and posted his second highest sack total of his career to shut the naysayers up. The main problem with drafting Ratliff is that he hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2011. Rather than draft Ratliff, look at him as a prime matchup play. Take advantage of him against weaker competition when he’s healthy, and you’ll find a few weeks where he’s a difference maker.
20. Bennie Logan (PHI) – How do you make it on this list as a D-lineman when you record exactly as many sacks in 2014 as yours truly (that would be a big, fat goose egg)? You better be extremely active against the run, and Bennie Logan was just that. He lead all defensive tackles in solo tackles with 44, and notched eight run stuffs, good enough for fifth best at the position. Logan knows his role (and shuts his mouth… couldn’t help myself), and he has the freedom to focus on the run while Fletcher Cox and Conner Barwin, among others, pressure the QB. The lack of sacks keeps Logan from posting monster weeks, but he’s still a safe pick who can provide suitable numbers this far down the rankings.
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